Making a Green Edwardian Gown

This weeks project is one I’ve had roughly planned ever since I saw the first season of Downton Abbey and fell in love with this dress. I love the deep green color, and how elaborate it is while still being simple in design. Back in April I bought four yards of green satin faced chiffon with plans to make something similar.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an eleborate lace in a matching color, so I decide to make my dress a bit simpler. After some more research I came across this dress, which I really like (especially the lace undershirt and use of black netting), along with these dresses.

The finished dress takes inspiration from all of them – plus some stuff I made up!

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I didn’t take any pictures of the drafting process, but the bodice is a simple three panel pattern with darts to shape the back and front. The skirt is also three pieces, with a straight front, flared sides and a bit of gathering at the back.

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I cut all the pieces out from a light green polyester charmeuse that I picked up for $4/yd during my shopping trip in Pennsylvania. It was a tight fit, but I managed to get all the pieces cut from the three yards I had.

The skirt panels were sewn together with one inch seam allowances. I left the edges raw, and facing outward since the satin faced chiffon will cover them.

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I leveled the hem since it was a bit wonky, then sewed horsehair braid into it to give the skirt a bit more body. I also sewed the darts into the bodice, and the waist seam.

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Then I repeated the process with the bodice – here you can see it on the dress form, along with some matching appliques I found on etsy. The darts on this didn’t turn out very well since satin faced chiffon is a pain to sew with, but luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the end.

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I cut the skirt out of satin faced chiffon too, then sewed the pieces together. I trimmed the hem and turned it inward by a half inch, then inward by another half inch to create a rolled hem that was whip stitched in place by hand.

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I sewed the chiffon to the charmeuse around the neckline, with the right side of the satin facing the wrong side of the charmeuse. Then I basted the layers together around the arm openings and waistline.

I sewed some black lace around the neckline by hand, then placed the appliques. It took me longer than I would like to admit to get these symmetrical, but I’m happy with the end result.

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I should mention that the appliques match the fabric perfectly, but something about the sheen of the chiffon makes it look teal in photos rather than the emerald green it actually is.

(I made sure to confirm this with every member of my family so I know I’m not crazy)

I’ll edit the color balance in worn photos of it if it becomes necessary, but I couldn’t be bothered for the progress photos.

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I sewed the appliques on and now it was time for sequins. A couple years ago a follower of my blog (I’m not sure if she would want her name mentioned) was kind enough to send me some beautiful vintage sequins. I’ve used the clear ones on a few projects, but this was the first time I had a project suitable for the black ones.

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally work with these – look at all those colors! They are black but shine purple and green, almost like an oil slick effect.

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I started off with just a few around the neckline, and some on the sides of the waistband (which is just a gathered rectangle of mesh).

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But I quickly came to my senses and realized it needed way more sequins, which led to this!

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This shows the sheen of the fabric (and the sequins) a bit better. I think it’s a pretty dreamy combo!

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After a fitting I realized the lining was visible below the hem of the satin faced chiffon, so I raised the hem with a horizontal dart a few inches below the waistline. This way I didn’t have to mess with the horsehair braid in the hem.

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Speaking of the hem, I decorated it with some green lace that was stitched on by hand (which once again, matches the fabric but doesn’t look that way in photos) and more sequins. The trim had little swirls that were perfect for embellishments.

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I sewed the back seam of the charmeuse and satin faced chiffon separately, and left the top eight inches of the skirt open. Then I turned that edge, along with the back edge of the bodice inward by an inch. Then I turned it inward again and whip stitched it down.

The back closes with hooks and bars. I sewed the waistband down to either side of the closure point, and when it’s worn the waistband ties in a bow.

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It isn’t the prettiest bow, but it’s still a bow!

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Now it was time for sleeves! These are just simple straight sleeves I drafted, then cut from the satin faced chiffon and charmeuse. The hem is finished with black lace, and a doubled band of netting. I embellished the hem with some sequins and finished the top edge with lace binding.

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The arm openings of the dress were finished with lace binding too, then the sleeves were sewn on by machine.

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There are a few pulls in the sleeves that I’ll have to steam out, but other than that the dress is finished! I really love how it turned out. It’s the elegant, sparkly, simple, edwardian gown I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to get photos of it!

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The construction isn’t my best, but I don’t think you can tell from the finished dress. I think it’s pretty lovely for a week and a half of work and less than fifty dollars of material!

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I intend to wear that dress over a blouse, as inspired by this dress. I don’t think it’s necessary for modesty like it is with that gown, but high lace collars are a big part of the early 1900’s, so I wanted to have the option.

I made this from scraps of silk satin I had leftover from a chemise, and a piece of lace that was slightly larger than a fat quarter. Since I didn’t have enough lace for the whole blouse, I made half of it from muslin, and used lace trim down the center of the sleeves and back.

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I don’t think I took any progress photos of this, but it was pretty easy to make. There was just a lot of hand sewing since the lace was sewn to lace trim, then basted to satin.

I used another lace around the cuffs, and added a few sequins for a bit of interest.
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The back closes with snaps.

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I think they look very pretty together!

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To finish off the ensemble I made a headband. I started with a strip of black mesh, then chopped the lace trim I had leftover from the hem into tiny appliques. These were sewn on by hand, with gaps left in between.

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I covered the gaps and edges with sequins, then whip stitched the visible netting inward.

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And the final touch were some dyed feathers I got in the garment district last year. I glued most of these onto the underside of the headband with E6000.

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And that’s it! I haven’t tried all the pieces on together, but I plan to this weekend so I can get photographs of it. It’s so different from the other projects I’ve been working on recently and I adore the end result. Though part of that probably has to do with the materials – emerald green satin faced chiffon and vintage sequins do a lot of the work for you!

Thanks for reading!

 

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Progress Report: May & June 2015

This is going to be a progress report! I haven’t done one of these in ages. If you aren’t familiar with these posts, they tend to be a bit all over the place and talk about my  projects in progress, what I plan on starting on in the near future, things I finished, and anything else I feel like that is vaguely related to costumes and sewing. May and June have been interesting months so I figured I would turn it into one long blog post!

In the past two months I’ve finished three projects….which doesn’t seem like very many. But in my defense one of those was a “big” project, and I was working on two new things as well.

One of those project is my Orchid Dress, which got a very mixed response when I posted about it. I’m actually quite pleased with how this came together. I really like the mixture of textures and the neckline. I think it’s really interesting, and different from my past projects. And certainly the closest i’ve gotten to making something “High Fashion”

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I also finished my Tudor project! I still have a couple blog posts to write about this, plus a video to edit which will talk a bit about each part of the costume, but the costume itself is done. Finishing this was a HUGE accomplishment for me. Though I don’t love how it turned out, I’m pretty happy with it considering how many pieces there are, and how tricky some of those pieces were to make.

Hopefully next week I can set up a backdrop, some candles, and do my best to get some nice photos of this. I really want to get photos that almost look like a painting come to life. But for now, here is a picture that definitely doesn’t look like a painting.

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I also finished Cinderella! I finished this long before the orchid dress and tudor costume, but it’s a good transition into the next topic. I like this dress as a shorter version of the one from the animated film. I think in that way, it’s cute. But that wasn’t my original vision so i’m a little disappointed with the end result.

However it’s really sparkly and fun to wear, so that’s good!

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And the way this transitions into the next topic is because it was the reason that here was a buzzfeed article about me! Which led to a HelloGiggles post and an interview on the Cosmopolitan website. Those articles ended up getting reposted and translated for a bunch of other sites too, so in addition to a huge view bump from the US i’ve been getting thousands from France, Russia, Italy, and strangely surprisingly, Belgium! Lots of places I hadn’t expected to have readers from, so that has been really neat!

I don’t expect my work to have a broad appeal, so it’s always a big surprising (but really great) to see it on sites that have a large audience. And even better to see that people actually seem interested. I’m really grateful for the kind comments I got, and of course the new followers! I really appreciate the support and I hope you are enjoying my blog!

Now for things I have in progress. Even though these are pretty far along they aren’t quite far enough along to blog about. Which is a bit annoying!

The first is a dress and jacket based off of the ones worn by Sophie Marie Grafin Voss in this painting. I want to get the dress finished soon, since it’s so summery and would look lovely photographed in a garden. I’m using off white fabric and lace, plus thousands of pink seed beads to decorate the lace.

I made the bodice a little while ago, but I only recently finished all the eyelets. And I still haven’t tried it on,. But i’m pretty confident it will fit well, since I did so many fittings between steps.

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For the skirt I fussy cut lace trim and appliques out of a lace fabric. It took me a good five hours, but I did it! Then this past week I used tea to stain the lace to match the fabric. It’s a very subtle stain, just enough to remove the whitish blue tinge.

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All the lace is now pinned onto the one hundred and eighty inch hem of the skirt. I’m sure i’ll have great fun stitching it on…

Though if I have trouble stitching it on then beading it will be REALLY miserable. I’ve never taken on a beading project this large before so I have no clue how long it will take and how difficult it will be. I guess I will find out soon!

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Part of making this project involved creating a set of pocket hoops. I made a pair last year but they were really, really, bad. This time I altered the pattern so the silhouette is a lot smoother and the construction is much better. I made a youtube tutorial on the process, which is posted here!

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And this is how they look with petticoats overtop. My petticoats are a bit ratty, but I think the shape is really nice!

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My other project is the second Cinderella dress, this one inspired by the dress from the live action film. The bodice is almost done. The fabric I used for this was annoying (lame, chiffon, and tulle – bleh) and my iron wasn’t working very well, so it’s less even and more puckered than it should be. But it looks good when worn!

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The real problem with it is that the eyelets that lace it closed have not been behaving. I tried metal ones first, and they betrayed me…

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So I replaced them with carefully embroidered ones and it happened AGAIN. I think I cried a little. I’m quite familiar with eyelets, so I don’t need advice on how to work with them, I think this was a case of me drastically misjudging how sturdy this fabric is…even though i’ve embroidered eyelets into organza and chiffon, the most delicate of all fabrics, and had them be fine.

Needless to say, this was not a good day for me and I’m not too excited to resume progress on this!

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Hopefully i’ll be starting on two new projects in the coming month. The first has been planned for a while, though i’m still not certain what the design will be. I’m making a dress based off of some things I got from Michaels. Those things include fake flowers, fake moss, burlap, and my personal favorite: Fake bird nests, which will make a lovely headpiece.

I think this will end up being a forest fairy type of thing. I might even attempt to make a pair of wings!

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I also might resort to taking on a procrastination project this month. Since my Cinderella dress isn’t going well and I can almost guarantee i’ll be fed up with embroidering lace after I sew on the four thousandth bead.

I’d like to make another easy, draped dress, which is once again inspired by how saints were depicted in artwork. I recently fell in love with this painting, it’s called “The Body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Borne to Heaven” and painted by Mucke Heinrich. The image below does not belong to me and was taken from this page.

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I find the red dress in that picture especially inspiring, which is good because it gave me a reason to buy a fabric from joanns which i’ve loved for ages. This is a rust colored sari fabric with gold stamping on it. I love the weight of it and the mottled print, it feels a bit like chiffon and I think it will be gorgeous for a draped dress like the one above! I also bought some suiting for lining, since it’s sheer.

I got this during Joanns memorial day sale, so I believe they were both 50% off, plus 20% off your entire purchase. Not a bad deal!

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And speaking of fabric, I bought a little bit in NYC. I didn’t plan on purchasing any, I actually went into NYC to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve been to the museum before, once to take cosplay photos (I cringe a little remembering this) and another to see a fashion exhibit. At those points I had no interest in historical fashion and artwork, so I didn’t appreciate the experience very much.

This time I went in alone, hoping to learn something and get really inspired. I think both of those things happened, and I really enjoyed the visit. Here are some photos of the ‘adventure’

I think the medieval statues, tapestries, and paintings were my favorite. It’s hard to research these things online since most of the results bring up reproductions popularized by renaissance faires. I’d like to make a dress similar to the one below (the name of this style is escaping me right now). I recently got six yards of fur trim I could use on a hem of a gown like this, so maybe it will happen soon!

This piece was especially impressive because it was huge, it was more than nine feet tall and ten feet wide. A better image is available here.

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One of the many medieval statues which I liked. I love the draping on these dresses. I have no idea what the pattern of one would look like, but I really want to make one. A better image is available here.

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The european painting gallery was lovely too.  I didn’t look at the archives online before going, so I had no idea what they would have or how much would be there. They ended up having a lot, including some Lucas Cranach works which were nice to see in person. They also had Peter Paul Rubens paintings, and a good amount of Rembrandts work. They are two of my favorite painters and I was so happy to see some in person!

I was kind of shocked at the size of everything, you don’t expect that 400 pixel wide image you see on pinterest or in a book to be eight feet tall in person. Definitely gives you a new appreciation for the artists!

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Unfortunately the historical costume exhibit was switched out for the “China Through the Looking Glass” collection – which was very pretty, but I would have rather admired eighteenth century stitch work instead.

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Okay – now onto the fabric! I didn’t get much. I got a bit of metallic gold brocade, some horsehair braid, and ten yards of satin faced chiffon. I’ve posted photos of very similar things in my past hauls (and I filmed a video haul for next week) so i’ll just show you my two favorites. The first is a floral print brocade, which I hated at first. I thought it looked like bloody starfishes and it grossed me out.

But now I think it looks like the most gorgeous floral brocade ever and I can’t wait to make a dress out of it.

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And the second is a white organza with laser cut blue flowers and embroidery attached. I love how delicate this fabric is, while still having a lot of movement and a fun flare to it. I think this would make a really nice skirt – something simple that doesn’t take away from the pattern, like a circle skirt.

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Now the very last thing I wanted to mention is that this month involved a bit of traveling! My family went up to Canada for a reunion, which was nice. But our trips over the border didn’t go that well. The first time we crossed through an indian reservation that had billboards about missing women and how white people weren’t wanted there. Then we crossed into the US on the same day prisoners escaped from Dannemora, so there were officers with M16s checking trunks. Not to mention checkpoints at the start of major towns, where Sheriffs would stop and question you. But we got back okay!

It stunted the progress on my costumes for a bit, but it wasn’t a total wash! We went to an antique bookshop that had a tiny craft section which I took advantage of.

I got two of the Art of Sewing books from the 70s. I love the covers of these, they are textured like fabric. It’s such a cute idea and they are really nicely laid out inside. Now I want them all – I think there are 16 in total?

I’m not sure how much use i’ll get out of these, but it was  only $10 for the pair. They have a few really nice diagrams on fabric manipulation and embroidery stitches, which are both things I want to improve at.

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I also got two more historically based books. I’m not sure how accurate the information still is, but I bought them mostly for the pictures. The top one is “The Horizon Book of the Renaissance” and the lower one is called “Costume of the Western World: Renaissance fashions” – both of which are really nice hardcover books with lots of fashion plates. I think they will work well as references for future costumes.

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And that’s everything! This was a massive post but I think it shows pretty much everything I did over the last month when it comes to costume work. Thank you for reading!

Making a Silvery Blue Dress, Part Two

This is a continuation of this post, which goes over drafting and making the bodice of this project. If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading that post first. In this post I will talk about making the sleeves!

The design for these sleeves is one i’ve used before – a large puff at the shoulder, fitted to the elbow, another large puff at the elbow, and fitted to the wrist. It can easily be made as a four piece pattern. The difficult places to fit sleeves are at the shoulder and elbow, so it is actually really great pattern if you find sleeves hard.

The sleeves on this dress bring back memories of making my Merida cosplay a couple years ago. I was really proud of the sleeves on that dress….even though the edges of the chiffon were unfinished and the sleeves were unlined so it frayed everywhere. The sleeves also didn’t really line up – and by that I mean the “puffs” were an inch away from lining up at points. Yikes.

But I did a much better job this time!

I started by taking a set of measurements, mostly paying attention to the arm length. After I got the proportions and shapes right I took this pattern in to fit my arms width.

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 The pieces for the “puffs” were altered a lot. Since I wanted them to have a lot of volume I made the patterns almost four times wider than the size they will be when gathered!

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 The lining for the puffs were cut out of silk organza, I had long scraps of it and thought it would create more volume than thin cotton. I cut the rest of my pattern from mismatched batiks, the same type I used for the bodice lining.

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 The organza pieces were gathered down roughly by machine, then stitched on to the batik pieces. All the edges were turned over and stitched down to ensure they wouldn’t fray too much.

I also stitched up the back seam and tried them on to make sure the fit was good – they ended up being a little large, so I made some alterations to my paper pattern before cutting out the top layer of fabric.

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 I trimmed the edges to be a half inch and then sewed them onto the bodice. I ended up with a big ugly mess that looked like this! But it fit really well, and that is the important thing!

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 So I moved on to making the top layer of sleeves. Step one was cutting out the pattern, again. This time from brocade (the fitted portions of the pattern) and the mystery fabric i’m using for the skirt (for the puffs).

Once the pieces were cut out I folded all the edges over a half inch and stitched them down. I was concerned they would fray and wanted to add a bit of stiffness to the brocade, so I fused one inch strips of interfacing over all the raw edges.

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Unfortunately I can’t find a picture of the fabric for the puffs ungathered, but here is what they looked like after I painstakingly gathered each one by hand. It took a long time. Much longer than I was expecting. I may have even done it by machine if I knew how tedious it would end up being.

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 I smoothed out the gathers a little bit, then pinned them onto the brocade parts of the sleeve.

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Then they were stitched together! This part so it took a long time too.

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But eventually I had two lovely sleeves!

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 I did up the side seams and they fit nicely! So I sewed them onto the bodice and stitched the cuffs to the cotton lining.

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 Now it was time for another fitting, which went quite well!  A few little puckers from the lining not being arranged properly, but that can be smoothed out later.

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 Before moving on to the next step I decided to stitch flannel into the bottom of the lining. Batik is pretty delicate, and so is brocade, neither are really strong enough to support the skirt.

 Eventually I’ll stitch the skirt onto the flannel and then cover the flannel with brocade.

DSC_2055Now I could attach the brocade bodice! Here it is pinned in place.

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And all stitched down! I left it open at the bottom so the skirt can be attached.

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That is it for this post! The next post will be the final installment about this project and talk about making the skirt.

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: July 2014

Today I’m posting something a little different.

I had a very productive week.I made a bodice, a skirt, hemmed a skirt, sewed on seven yards of trim, added boning to a bodice, made two mock ups, drafted two patterns, and so on…

It was successful, but the success was spread out over a half dozen projects so I don’t have enough content for a single “The Making of” post. I used to work on several projects simultaneously with great success, but this week I learned it’s a method that no longer works for me. I like being focused on a single costume, things get done so much faster, my studio stays cleaner, and at the end of a week I not only feel like I accomplished something, but I have visual proof too.

I’ve decided to pack a few of these projects away for the time being, and focus on finishing them one at a time, because right now i’m really overwhelmed.

Even though these projects are going to be set aside for a few weeks, I have every intention of finishing them all. So I thought I would create a post about whats in my workroom, with a few teaser pictures of projects to come, as well as some photos of things I’ve finished but didn’t document well enough to blog about.

Depending on how well this goes, I may do something similar monthly or bi-monthly with teasers, sketches, recent purchases, and life updates all crammed into one.

The project i’ve had going on for the longest is a set of stays. I started these over six weeks ago and got them over 50% done, but haven’t managed to finish them off. They have all the bones in place, bound edges, and eyelets, but none of the pieces are together just yet.

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Once I get the stays finished off (which at this rate, won’t be happening anytime soon) I’d like to being work on a Robe a L’anglaise. I already have the bodice drafted and the underskirt cut out, so technically this is in progress, but I need to buy some ribbon and organza before I can properly get to work.

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Sticking to the 18th century theme, a project I recently finished is a set of pocket hoops to go with my Dewdrop Series dress. These were more challenging then I had expected but I really love the end result! I drafted the pattern myself but referenced Norah Waughs “Corsets and Crinolines” book to get an idea of the shapes.

These were made from cotton with hooping wire to keep the shape.

(Pardon the messy studio)

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Another thing I finished was a hat and eyepatch! These were made to go with my Pretty Pirate costume. I started on these last October, but the weather became too cold to photograph the costume, so I lost the drive to actually finish it until now.

The hat is made from felt weight interfacing, covered in a cream brocade, with a satin faced lining. The edges are bound in ivory linen and the whole thing is decorated with feathers and a chiffon applique.

DSC_7347The eyepatch is made from heavy interfacing as well, and covered in the same fabrics.

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My most challenging work in progress, and the one i’ve chosen to focus on for the time being is re creating the painting Joanna of Aragon by Raphael I’m making a few changes to improve it’s appearance in real life, like using off white materials and lighter gold tones to give the appearance of age. But for the most part i’m trying to make it recognizable.

I’ve gotten quite a lot done, including the most difficult aspect – the very detailed, hand beaded and embroidered collar!

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A project that I will definitely be packing away is this tulle and lace wedding gown idea. I actually began drafting this pattern a few weeks ago, but set it aside when I was asked to design the dress collection. I’ve worked on it a bit throughout the last week, including cutting out the bodice and getting half the boning channels done.

There is still just a ton to do, and it will take so much space to make that I think this is best left alone until I have a cleaner workroom!

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The lace was actually sent to me as a gift and I really, really, adore it. Whenever I Get around to making this it will be the real focus of the dress.

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A few days ago I began work on a companion piece to my Dewdrop dress. I wanted to make a similar, more modern design from my left over fabric. It would have a lot of similar traits to the original, but be much sleeker in cut and style. So far all i’ve done is draft the pattern – and i’m not sure if it will ever move beyond that.

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My last W.I.P is an empire waisted Regency gown. It’s made from bridal satin and chiffon, with gold lace and ivory pearls to create details. It’s a much less elaborate version of something I would like to make in the future, I guess you could say it’s a practice piece, though I think the end result will be pretty lovely!

So far everything is drafted and the skirt is sewn, hemmed, and decorated with the trim.

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Now for a future project – which I shouldn’t even be thinking about with all I have in progress. Michaels was having a 40% off sale and I bought 40some sprigs of flowers, which is around 200 blossoms in total! I want to add these to the hem of a dress, and make a corseted bodice from tulle and organza. I’m honestly not sure it’s possible, but I would really like to try.

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So that’s that! Lot’s of stuff in the works.

Thanks for reading!